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Future Conscious Melbourne
Future Conscious Melbourne

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The Forum, Melbourne, Australia

Location: 154 Flinders St, Melbourne, Australia
Year built: 1929
Architect: John Emberson

Melbourne’s iconic Forum Theatre, constructed in 1929, is a live music, cinema, event and theatre venue located on the corner of Russell Street and Flinders Street. The structure was designed by prominent Ukrainian-born architect John Eberson, in association with Australian architecture firm Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson.

The complex follows the concept of ‘atmospheric theatre’, a design philosophy popular in the late 1920s. The idea is to evoke a sense of bringing the outdoors in, where patrons feel they are an active participant in the theatre setting. Forum Theatre presents a vibrant interior, characterised by a deep blue ceiling sprinkled with twinkling lights that reflect a night sky.

The theatre’s elaborate facade evokes thoughts of classic Gothic architecture, with towering turrets and detailed embellishments. It was the largest theatre in Australia at the time of its construction.

Learn more about Gothic architecture.

John Eberson

Born in 1875, John Eberson attended school in Dresden, Saxony and completed his studies in electric engineering at the University of Vienna before immigrating to the United States in 1901. He began work with an electrical contracting company, and eventually became affiliated with theatre architecture and construction company Johnson Realty and Construction.

Eberson became adept in designing opera houses and theatres through his work with Johnson. He formed his architectural firm in 1926 after moving to New York City, and employed his son Drew to carry on the family business after his death.

Many of Eberson’s theatre complexes follow art deco and streamline moderne design philosophies. His body of work includes the Louisville Palace in Kentucky, the Palace Theatre in New York, the Woodlawn Theatre in Texas, and several theatres in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

There is always an atmosphere at the Forum, always a sense of occasion that you simply don’t feel at other venues, because when you first walk off the streets and into the foyer you are hit with a feeling of a golden age. While you’re waiting for an act to start you are equally impressed by the starry ceiling, the detailed statues and the expansive toilets. You can lean on the bar before taking your seat, you can watch from a booth with a group of friends or if your ears are tired and you want to chat, you can escape to the comfort of the quiet foyer rather than the cold Melbourne streets. – Scott Williams

Cover photo by Yukiko. Other images by State Library and Ducan on Flickr.